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Counter Culture Coffee Review: Upscale Sustainable Coffee?

Counter Culture Coffee is a Durham-based coffee roastery that offers premium grade coffee, training and educational opportunities for those aspiring to become a professional barista or who want to improve their coffee craft. Even though Counter Culture Coffee is considered one of the leading sustainable coffee brands, should it be a fixture in your daily brewing or drinking routine? We’ve prepared this Counter Culture Coffee Review for you to get to know this roaster inside and out. Enjoy!

Counter Culture Coffee 2024 Review Summary

Counter Culture has been driving sustainability since 1995. While recent press has revealed some problems, it has also pushed them to the next level of social justice in the workplace and their coffee mission remains an aspirational standard in the industry.

Pros

  • The coffee is a blend of outstanding single-origin beans from top coffee regions
  • Coffee beans are packed in eco-friendly coffee bags
  • Lots of locations
  • Supports environmental projects and community initiatives

Cons

  • Limited coffee blend options
  • A bit pricey

Who is Counter Culture Coffee?

Counter Culture Coffee is an American wholesale coffee company founded in 1995 by Brett Smith and Fred Houk. For over 25 years, the company has focused on sustainability in coffee as its driving force. The company was recognized as an industry leader and is often lauded for its honest to goodness coffee transparency report they’ve been publishing since 2009.

A relentless pursuer of perfection in coffee, Counter Culture Coffee keeps improving its ways of experimenting on the best coffee beans to offer and innovating their ways of roasting while staying humbly committed to the real environmental and fiscal sustainability.

Education

counter culture classroom image

Counter Culture Coffee has managed to build a superb impression among coffee connoisseurs. over the last 25 years! They provide easy to follow brew guides, dynamic homebrew classes, training centers, and educational opportunities aside from specialty coffee offerings. Here’s a quick read about these fantastic finds in Counter Culture Coffee.

Brew Guides

With Counter Culture Coffee brewing guides, you’ll learn the basics of making better coffee. The guide shares valuable information about proper brewing, temperature adjustments, grind measurements, and secured storage.

The brew guides shared by the Counter Culture Coffee team also include How-To Videos about refining your grinds, pour-over hacks, preparing your cold brew, best French Press, and Aeropress brewing techniques as well as making single-serve coffee like a pro.

Training Centers

It’s in the regional training centers where all the magic happens. They create a coffee hub for local support teams, wholesale partners, and exciting coffee starters vying to explore, train, and practice the art of coffee and its trusted equipment.

Likewise, the Counter Culture Coffee training center serves as the venue for important public events like Tasting at Ten, Home Brew classes, and Catalog Cupping. If you’re interested in attending any of the events mentioned but is too far from Durham, you can still participate in these events in the following locations:

  • Asheville Training Center (Asheville, NC)
  • Atlanta Training Center (Atlanta, GA)
  • Bay Area Training Center (Emeryville CA)
  • Boston Training Center (Somerville, MA)
  • Charleston Training Center (Charleston, SC)
  • Chicago Training Center (Chicago, IL)
  • Dallas Training Center (Dallas, TX)
  • Durham Training Center (Durham, NC)
  • Los Angeles Training Center (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Miami Training Center (Miami, FL)
  • New York Training Center (New York, NY)
  • Seattle Training Center (Seattle, WA)
  • Washington DC Training Center (Washington, DC)

Home Brew Classes

The Home Brew Classes facilitated by the CounterCulture Coffee Team aim to guide and support aspiring at-home baristas with their easy to engage Brewing Coffee at Home and Espresso at Home classes. These classes enable you to hone the skills and knowledge in preparing the perfect coffee while in the comforts of your kitchen. 

Resource Center

The Counter Culture Coffee resource center is all about the journey of the Durham-based roastery in perfecting coffee. It tells about the experimentations, innovations, and collaborations made by Counter Culture with partners, producers, and professional baristas since its conception. 

Sustainability

Counter Culture Coffee is truly a role model when it comes to sustainable coffee. The coffee company operates by following the core of their business, which is sourcing coffee. Yet, these core values would not manifest without transparency. Such is reflected in their Purchasing Principles and Supply Chain Objectives.

Transparency Reports

The Transparency Reports published by Counter Culture are an honest affirmation of what the coffee company has been doing for 25 years of roasting the best coffee beans sourced from its 55 coffee suppliers, where 23 of it are some of Counter Culture Coffee’s most trusted coffee bean partners.

Their 2019 Transparency Report highlights “visibility across the coffee supply chain” that is often misunderstood. It also discusses carbon emissions data covering the air travels, employee commuting journeys, delivery, and plastic usage of the coffee company.

Seeds Programme

CCC also supports the Seeds Programme by donating one cent per pound of coffee sold. This program assists in creating community facilities and improving the farmer’s income with its crop diversification. 

Local Communities

The CounterCulture team supports the local community by focusing on organizations that promote sustainable agriculture and food security. The company makes local donations and volunteer time off to keep the place where they live and work. 

Local donation is given to organizations that work on sustainable farming or food security. Volunteer time off, on the other hand, is an 8 hour- Paid Time off of Counter Culture employees to do volunteer work. 

It’s an excellent opportunity for the team in every region to learn more about their communities and provide a lending hand in doing social and environmental tasks that organizations support.

Educational Resources

The resource center is filled with video series that lead us from barista brewing techniques to coffee sustainability. It’s a helpful page to visit when you browse their website as it exhibits different coffee perspectives coming from coffee experts. 

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Action

Counter Culture Coffee sees to it that their employees aren’t isolated and excluded from their sustainable plans. At the end of 2019, they started their conversation with Intersections, a Raleigh-based DEI Consultant, and began a cultural audit in June 2020 after public allegations about systemic racism and abuse complaint cover-ups surfaced online.

Likewise, they provide intensive training and sessions where all Counter Culture staff will begin its cross-departmental Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training in August 2020. They also partnered with Kantola to provide the employees with organization-wide discrimination and harassment training.

According to the Counter Culture Coffee Co-Founder and President, Brett Smith, the company has taken immediate and meaningful action concerning the coffee company’s allegations. The cultural audit is one of the improvements made following the incident, where an initial survey has been implemented, followed by feedback forums that include individual and group listening sessions.

Counter Culture Coffee identified 48.9% of its employees who participated in the small group discussions to share their experiences with DEI Consultants of Intersection. The sessions with Intersection is ongoing, and to date, they already had 25 small group sessions. After these sessions, it will move to the strategy and action phase, in which Britanny and Adrienne of Intersections will guide the Counter Culture Coffee employees on an ongoing basis.

Coffees Offered

If you’re looking for the best coffee blend to try from Counter Culture Coffee, the Big Cup of Coffee makes it easy for you to know what these beans can offer.

Apollo

Apollo showcases Ethiopian coffee beans’ goodness as it is 100% sourced from Dambi Udo, Ethiopia. It is a palatable silky, sweet, and bright coffee with hints of floral and citrus notes. The coffee beans are machine washed and roasted up to 72 levels based upon the Agtron roast level scale. Among the many coffee blends of Counter Culture, Reddit users highly recommend this roast, especially if you got the fresh batch because it pairs well with baking spices.

Highly Recommended
Counter Culture Apollo Coffee

Apollo is a coffee blend that emphasizes the unique floral and citrus flavors of Ethiopian coffee, celebrating Ethiopia's historical role in coffee culture. Apollo highlights seasonal variations rather than maintaining a consistent flavor profile, using only certified organic, washed Ethiopian coffees.

Big Trouble

Big Trouble is a sustainable dark roast that features a round body with caramelicious and nutty flavor. This coffee blend is a mixture of 50% Puente, Honduras coffee beans, 30% Elena, Guatemala coffee beans, and 20% Cueva, Colombia coffee beans. The coffee beans are washed and roasted up to 63 levels based on the Agtron roast level. Big Trouble is available year-round and tastes better as a milk-based beverage.

Medium Dark Roast
Counter Culture Big Trouble Coffee

Big Trouble is a medium-dark roast coffee blend known for its nutty, caramel, and chocolate flavors, sourced sustainably from global producers. This best-selling blend is carefully roasted to ensure consistent quality, offering a balance of sweet flavors and a medium body.

Fast Forward

Fast Forward is a sweet and nutty coffee with a light body. It is a blend of 70% Kabeywa, Uganda coffee beans, and 30% Adenisa, Guatemala coffee beans. It’s a washed, processed, and Kosher-certified coffee bean roasted up to 72 levels based on roasting’s Agtron level. 

Counter Culture Fast Forward Coffee

Fast Forward is a coffee blend characterized by nutty, sweet, and creamy tasting notes, developed through a uniform preparation and comparison process by a specialized coffee team. This coffee emphasizes natural flavors without the addition of flavoring agents. It is sourced from certified organic, smallholder farms in Latin America and Africa, reflecting a commitment to seasonal freshness and taste over a static coffee menu.

Forty-Six

Forty-Six is Counter Culture Coffee’s staple dark roast for its maximize sweetness and complexity. It features a full body with hints of dark chocolate and smoky-tasting notes. The beans are available year-round. It’s a Kosher blend of 45% Kabeywa, Uganda beans, 35% Kabeywa Natural, 10% Cenaproc, and 10% Kedemesa, Ethiopia coffee beans.

Counter Culture Forty Six Coffee

The Forty-Six coffee blend is a dark-roast, full-bodied coffee with a flavor profile featuring dark chocolate sweetness and a smoky intensity. It is composed of organic-certified coffees sourced from prestigious coffee-growing regions, specifically selected for their ability to retain sweetness and complexity when dark roasted. The tasting notes are determined by a uniform preparation process by the coffee team, without the use of any flavoring agents.

Hologram

The Hologram coffee blends scored 71 levels based upon the Agtron scale. The coffee beans are naturally sun-dried washed. Likewise, it is a blend of 60% Concepcion Huista beans, 30% Dambi Udo beans, and 10% Halobariti beans. This Kosher-certified blend features a fruity, milk chocolate flavor with a syrupy body.

Medium Roast
Counter Culture Hologram Coffee

Hologram is a medium-roast coffee blend featuring a unique flavor profile with notes of ripe fruit and milk chocolate. It is created by a team that meticulously prepares and compares notes to identify the coffee's most prominent characteristics, ensuring a natural and authentic taste. This blend aims to provide a complex yet approachable coffee experience, elevating the sensory enjoyment of coffee drinkers.

Slow Motion Decaf

The Slow Motion Decaf is the decaffeinated blend of 100% Decaf La Voz, Guatemala coffee beans. It features a molasses and cocoa flavor in its smooth body. The coffee beans in this decaf blend are roasted to 58 levels. The beans undergo a washed process and are decaffeinated with the Swiss Water Process.

Decaf Pick
Counter Culture Slow Motion Decaf Coffee

The Slow Motion Decaf coffee is designed for those seeking a flavorful, full-bodied experience without caffeine, featuring prominent notes of molasses and cocoa. The product is developed through a careful tasting process by the coffee team, ensuring no flavoring agents are added, to highlight the coffee's natural characteristics. It is decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process, unless stated otherwise, to maintain its quality and taste.

Subscriptions

If you want to make Counter Culture Coffee your sustainable supply of coffee every week, every 2, 3, or 4 weeks, avail of their ongoing subscriptions and choose among the nine coffee blends you’d want to be delivered to your doorstep.

What the Community Says

Alternatives

If you’re overwhelmed with the coffee blends that Counter Culture Coffee offer, Big Cup of Coffee recommends the following options:

Larry’s Coffee

Larry’s Coffee sources their coffee beans from 16 coffee-producing countries around the world. This Raleigh-based coffee roaster partners with small-farm cooperatives that grow coffee in 2 to 5 acres of land. The coffee beans they import from different producers and coffee regions are roasted in varying lengths before being blended to create a unique flavor profile that suits your palate.

To learn more about Larry’s Coffee and their sustainable ways of roasting and to support the community, you can read our Larry’s Coffee review here.

Sumatra + Nicaragua
Larry’s Coffee Organic Cowboy Blend

The Cowboy Blend is a popular coffee mix combining Indonesian and American beans, featuring a balance of earthy Sumatran flavors and the buttery smoothness of Nicaraguan coffee. It is roasted to a level that emphasizes a full-bodied sweetness without overpowering the complex blend of spicy, roasty, and smoky flavors.

Tiny Footprint Coffee

Tiny Footprint Coffee is a coffee roaster with an environmental cause. It’s the world’s first carbon-negative coffee that supports sustainability and fair labor. They source their coffee beans from farmers who give utmost care to the coffee plants and protect the environment where they cultivate their beans. Also, they pay their growers a fair and competitive wage.

Read how Tiny Footprint Coffee delivers delicious coffee blend while protecting the environment from our full Tiny Footprint Coffee review.

Most Sustainable
Tiny Footprint Coffee Nicaragua Segovia Dark Roast

Tiny Footprint Coffee offers a dark roast with chocolate, apricot, fig, and spice notes, and is the world's first carbon-negative coffee. The company supports reforestation in Ecuador's Mindo Cloud Forest, offsetting more CO2 than it emits in its production process. In addition to its environmental efforts, the coffee is sustainably sourced, often organic or fair-trade certified, and is crafted in a carbon-negative roastery.

Portland Roasting Company

Portland Coffee Roasters sources its beans directly from farmers. Not only do these coffee roasters support FairTrade, but they also embrace practices that build sustainable relationships with the communities.

Find out how Portland Roasting Company supports the community and protects the planet with its eco-friendly ways in our full Portland Roasting Company review here.

Sustainability Pioneers
Portland Roasters Organic Portland House Coffee

The Organic Portland House coffee is a balanced blend featuring mild acidity, medium body, and walnut flavor notes. It is roasted to the lighter side of medium, resembling the roast profile of the conventional Portland House blend. This organic coffee primarily uses beans from Central and South America to maintain its consistent taste and organic status.

Our Verdict

There’s no perfect coffee company. Every company has its flaws, but what makes it different is how companies address their deficiencies to improve and become a better version of themselves. Despite recent allegations that surfaced online, Counter Culture Coffee has remained committed to its promise since its conception in 1995. They’ve been giving back to the communities they serve, setting the bar for coffee quality, sourcing, and environmental awareness.

This leading sustainable coffee company is hopeful they can continue the critical conversations about sustainability that they initiated 25 years ago and sincerely want to prevent systemic racism and abuse from happening again behind the scenes in their workplace and elsewhere.

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